Sunday marked the 68th time the ball was tipped off for the NBA All-Star Game, the culminating event of the league’s annual weekend extravaganza, a celebration of basketball’s best and brightest. Newly departed from the traditional format of East vs. West for the game, this year’s matchup was a mix of both conferences led by each’s leading vote-getter. For the first time, a draft show was televised on TNT, which added to the hype of the game before a second was played, and gave fans a one-time glimpse of a fantasy basketball world that allowed their favorite players to compete with and against each other with no barriers.
This is exactly what they got. Lebron James (captain of Team Lebron) selected Kevin Durant with the first overall pick, pairing arguably the league’s two best players, while the league’s seemingly most effortless scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo took its best shooter, Stephen Curry with his first pick. James Harden, the current front-runner for MVP was the seventh overall pick to give you a glimpse of the talent pool, and the two team captains were able put together squads that would undoubtedly make Team Lebron vs. Team Giannis a matchup to remember.
342 was the staggering total the two star-studded rosters put up, Team Lebron securing the win with 178 points out of the total. The game was an absolute spectacle, a mirage of high-flying leaps, dazzling dunks, and pinpoint three pointers, the perfect top off to the exciting events of the weekend. It began Friday with the Rising Stars challenge, and Lebron’s teammate Kyle Kuzma taking home MVP honors with a 35-point performance, followed by the celebrity game, which featured the likes of rapper Quavo, Dr. Oz, and Hall of Famer of Ray Allen. Joe Harris was the unlikely hero of the 3-point shootout, putting on a feisty and dogged performance resembling his Brooklyn Nets this season (they’re in a prime position to secure a playoff spot) in a field that featured Devin Booker and both Curry brothers. Rookie Hamidou Diallo put his name on the map with an impressive leap over Shaquille O’Neal in the dunk contest, stuffing his arm in the rim in Vince Carter fashion to top it off, taking home the title.
There was no shortage of events to remember, and perhaps with time some may find their way on to this list. For now though, here are the current top ten moments in All-Star weekend history.
- “Confidence baby!” The 1987 All-Star game featured several of the league’s juggernauts in the prime of their careers; Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. It was also the second appearance for a young up and coming phenom named Michael Jordan. The game was hotly contested right up to the end, and with 3 seconds left the Western conference had the ball at the inbounds, down 140-138. Mavericks star guard Rolando Blackman received the inbound pass, and drove the lane, being fouled by several Eastern starters. He sunk the first free throw with ease, leaving him with one more to shoot, and giving fans a long-lasting impression of the power of speaking things into existence.
- *Cues Superman theme song.* Many have attempted to replicate, but none can top the original. 2008 was the year that Magic center Dwight Howard solidified himself as the NBA’s preeminent high-flying big man, earning himself the Superman moniker in the process Howard emerged from a phone booth, and with the assistance of teammate Jameer Nelson, revealed who he had made a call to, removing his jersey to reveal a Superman shirt underneath. The dunk that followed was nothing short of heroic.
- So much of the excitement surrounding the game now is above the rim. The league has transformed to an athletic one, as physical attributes play an integral part in team success, and there are perhaps no two better jumpers in it than Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine. The two young guns put their arsenals on full display in 2016, as both, who were each drafted in 2014, put together 50 after 50 in consecutive overtime rounds. Lavine eventually ended up taking the title after a putting free throw line dunk between his legs, but the true winner of the matchup is still being debated. Nevertheless, the video still gives me chills to this day.
- They don’t call him Larry Legend for no reason, and his performance in the 1988 3-point contest was just another rung on the belt for Larry Bird. After being the contest’s inaugural winner in 1986 and going back to back in 1987, Bird was the man to beat when the ’88 contest rolled around. Bird, cool as ever remained unfazed throughout the early rounds, eventually setting up a final shoot off against the Supersonics’ Dale Ellis. Not only did Bird win it, he did so in stunning fashion, knocking down his final three shots and putting a salutary finger in the air before the last one dropped, all while still in his Celtics warm-ups. Larry. Legend.
- Any time you see a man below 6’0 dunk a basketball, it’s a pretty impressive feat. Now, when a man who is 5’7 and 133lbs becomes the NBA’s dunk champion, it’s the stuff of legend. This is exactly what happened in 1986 when Spud Webb, the third-shortest player to ever step on an NBA court, shocked the Dallas crowd and the world watching at home with the heart the size of a giant. Webb was a late addition to the contest, and many were surprised to see his name on the list of competitors, including his teammate, notorious dunker Dominique Wilkins, who had “never seen me dunk before” according to Spud. Wilkins went into the competition with little preparation, and the only person who would not be surprised by what he was about to do had the confidence of a lion. And well, the rest, as they say, was history.
- Michael Jordan had a seemingly uncanny ability to make plays on the court look like poetry in motion, and create moments that could play out like Hollywood scripts. His 1989 buzzer beater over the Cavalier’s Craig Ehlo to send the Bulls to the next round of the playoffs and his finals-clinching shot against the Jazz in 1998 are just a few. This All-Star moment, if not for Kobe Bryant, would have been right there atop the list, and would’ve sent a Wizards MJ riding off into the sunset with a fadeaway turnaround in the closing seconds of overtime in Jordan-esque fashion. His team would go on to lose the game after a blunder of a foul at the other end. Nonetheless, the moment remains one of his best.
- This is the only moment on this list that is not a shot, a play, a dunk or even a game. It is, in fact a list in itself. In 1996, The NBA’s 50 Greatest players were assembled together to commemorate the league’s 50th year of existence. A list compiled by former players and coaches, media members and general managers, it was a celebration of the athletic prowess, hard work and determination, and success both on and off the court, showcasing players from (at the time) current to long retired in perhaps the greatest collection of basketball talent ever assembled on a court. And while players like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant had yet to carve their own names into the record books, it was the epitome of basketball greatness at the time, and a glorious occasion for a league that had endured its own tenured hardships in becoming one of the most popular, and widely recognized sports associations in the world.
- Vince Carter put on one of the greatest showings we’ve ever seen in a dunk contest in 2000. Donning the Raptor’s classic purple and black jerseys that they brought out after their initial inception in Canada, Carter’s classic slams ignited a fire amongst everyone in the crowd. They included a thundering 360 windmill that allotted a 50, a between the legs slam off a pass from then teammate and cousin Tracy McGrady, and the iconic finish that Diallo alluded in his performance this year, ending with the inconic pose of Carter’s entire right arm stuffed in the rim.
- The name Jordan brings to mind everything that encompasses one of the most mesmerizing basketball players of all time; the tongue out, the acrobatics, the high flying feats, the clutch shots. One picture though, is nearly universal when his name comes up, and it’s the logo of his worldly famous brand: a silhouette of Jordan seemingly spreading his wings to fly and finish a dunk from the free throw line. The recognition of the dunk is seamless for sports fans, and it has not only become synonymous with Jordan brand, but catapulted it into one of the world’s most successful shoe companies. Here is that legendary dunk that would become known as “the logo”, which came during the 1988 contest.
- Magic Johnson retired prior to the 1991-92 NBA season after finding out he had contracted AIDS in a pre-season physical, stating that he would dedicate his life to “fighting the deadly disease.” Despite his retirement, Johnson was voted as an all-star starter by fans, and suited up for the game amidst player concerns of possible contamination. He played like he had never left, putting up 25 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds in an MVP performance to lead the West to a 153-113 win, and ended the game in fascinating form, hitting a rainbow three pointer over longtime rival Isiah Thomas. He was mobbed by his teammates and the opposing team, ending the game before regulation was over. There couldn’t have been a better ending: the entire stadium in awe, marveling at the magic of his courage and determination, and celebrating one of the best moments from one of the best players of all time.